The Blackpool Opera House Theatre, in the winter gardens, was the grand setting for a spectacular ‘night with the stars’ to raise £14,141 for the West Lancashire MCF 2021 Festival and a further £5,000 for the charity Care after Combat

West Lancashire’s Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, together with his wife Maureen, were joined by Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) Chief Executive David Innes and his wife, Annemarie. Local civic leaders, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool, Councillor Gary Coleman and his wife Councillor Debbie Coleman, were joined by over 1,000 Freemasons along with their partners and members of the public, to enjoy the show which was hosted by comedian Jim Davidson.

Among the stars performing were Freddie ‘Parrot Face’ Davies, star of Opportunity Knocks and vocalists Emilie Jasmine and Adam Lacey, who sang songs from Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. Lynn Fox also performed many hits from the 60's before the Chorley Croft and Culcheth Pipe Band closed the first half of the show. 

In the second half, over 90 members of the George Formby Society performed some of their famous songs, Meet the Folkers then entertained the audience with traditional Irish folk music and comedian Mick Miller closed the show to thunderous applause.

At the end of the performance Jim Davidson thanked the audience for supporting his charity – Care after Combat – with a wonderful cheque for £5,000.

The West Lancashire MCF 2021 Festival Vice President David Winder expressed his thanks to the organisers, performers and audience. He revealed that the show had raised £14,141 for the Festival.

After the show, Tony and Maureen Harrison hosted a reception at Blackpool Masonic Club, where the Mayor and Mayoress, were also given a tour of the lodge rooms.

East Lancashire Freemasons have presented Burnley Football Club with a grant of £19,200 to help support their ‘Kicks’ programme

At the end of 2018, Burnley Football Club made a successful application to the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which came through East Lancashire Freemasons, for the grant. This was presented to the during half time at their home game against Cardiff City on 13th April 2019 by East Lancashire's Deputy Provincial Grand Master John Farrington and Provincial Grand Charity Steward Steve Clarke.

Kicks is one of Burnley FC’s flagship community programmes, part of BFCitC, and is designed to engage young people 11-19 who are at risk of being involved in anti-social behaviour and crime. It organises activities in a number of venues and these are predominantly football-based.

The grant will enable Burnley FC to introduce new sports such as cricket, dance and boxercise which it is hoped will also engage more girls.

Over 720 Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons and guests attended their eagerly awaited Sportsman’s Dinner on 21st March 2019, with former England cricketer Phil Tufnell the guest speaker, and helped to raise over £70,000 to support the Leicestershire & Rutland 2022 Festival and the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The event was held at the Leicester Tigers rugby ground on Welford Road and hosted by Roger Dakin, former England Hockey goalkeeper, with attendees enjoying an evening of fun and entertainment in support of the 2022 Festival.

The evening began with convivial drinks served in the Legends VIP and Final Whistle bars before being seated ready for the entertainment to begin. Roger Dakin delighted the audience with his famed jokes and stories throughout the night.

Aside from an entertaining evening, the more serious side was to raise money for worthy causes, which began with silent auctions for many items of signed sporting memorabilia and relaxing events for family and friends.

A live auction was held, with lots including a holiday to Antigua, tickets to the Monaco Grand Prix and a painting by artist Ben Mosley, with former England Test Cricketer Ed Giddins stepping into the hot seat as the auctioneer.

England and Middlesex left-arm spin bowler Phil Tufnell then took to the stage to recount some of his more famed sporting events throughout the course of his career as a sportsman, and then subsequently his foray into television on shows such as Question of Sport, Strictly Come Dancing and his reign as King of the Jungle on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

The evening was a huge success, with over £70,000 being raised, which included the proceeds of the live and silent auctions. 

David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland, said: ‘I would like to praise and thank the organisers of this event, to raise over £70,000 in support of such worthy causes is a testimony to the generosity of all who attended.’

Small charities will now be able to apply for multi-year grants to cover basic running expenses and other core funding costs, following a major policy shift at the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) – one of the largest grant-making charities in the country

Until recently, the MCF, in common with many other charitable foundations, has tended to concentrate on project-based funding, which generally provides more measurable results. The MCF also gives one-off unrestricted grants of up to £5,000 to small charities for general charitable purposes. 

However, having identified the growing issue of smaller charities facing difficulties due to lack of core funding, the MCF has bucked the trend amongst similar grant-giving bodies to address the issue and has expanded its current programme of non-ring-fenced grants.

The new grants are available to charities with an income of no more than £500,000 a year, often much less, and will be for a maximum of £5,000 per year over three years. The first round of these extended unrestricted core funding grants has just been announced for 22 small charities. It is hoped that these multi-year unrestricted funding grants will help sustain charities, enabling them to deliver services to those most in need. The MCF aims to monitor and evaluate these grants, and hopes to share any learning within the sector regarding the effectiveness of this grant-giving.

Funded by freemasons, their families and friends, the Masonic Charitable Foundation is the national freemasons’ charity. In 2017, the MCF provided grants of more than £5.6 million to 770 national, regional and local charities across England and Wales.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'There are many small charities that struggle with basic running costs. Project-based funding is fine, but if they can’t pay the electricity bill or put petrol in the car, delivering services to clients can be difficult if not impossible.

'Many charities cease their vital activities because this kind of funding is not available. This is why the MCF’s new core funding initiative, on behalf of the Freemasons of England and Wales, is so important.'

Thousands of people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe whose lives have been devastated by Cyclone Idai will be given access to clean water, as well as tarpaulins, plastic sheets and other emergency supplies, thanks to a grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The money is being donated to Plan International UK which is working to help survivors, including young women and children, who are at particular risk.

The grant from the Freemasons will provide jerry cans, water purification tablets and buckets to thousands of people who have lost everything and are at risk of potentially-deadly waterborne diseases.

Over 750 people have died in the three countries on the south-east coast of Africa with Mozambique suffering the highest human fatalities. As the death toll continues to rise, over 260,000 children have been affected in the country and at least 350,000 people are at risk from rising flood waters. In Malawi, close to a million people have been affected with nearly half a million being children.

Plan International UK is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). The DEC brings together 14 leading UK aid charities in times of crisis, to maximise the impact and help children and families who need it most.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Ebbie Muhire (28) is sheltering at a church in southern Malawi with five family members including her youngest child, a three-year-old toddler.

'The challenges we are facing are mainly crowded and unpleasant sleeping areas and poor sanitation and hygiene facilities because our utensils were damaged in the rain and now we are all using same equipment.' Ebbie says. 'The children, especially the young ones are at risk of getting sick.'

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said: 'We’re hugely grateful to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for supporting our disaster response in Southern Africa. This generous grant will make a big difference to thousands of people affected by this devastating cyclone and help get their lives back on track.'

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation' said: 'Cyclone Idai has devastated the lives of many thousands of people, with, as usual, women and children bearing the brunt of the suffering. I’m very pleased that the Masonic Charitable Foundation was able to move so quickly and provide funds for Plan International UK’s vital work at the heart of the disaster zone.'

East Lancashire Freemasons have donated £5,000 to the social mobility charity Leadership Through Sport & Business (LTSB), which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)

On behalf of the MCF, East Lancashire Provincial Grand Charity Steward Steve Clark was delighted to attend a ‘speed interview’ session of the LTSB, which involved a dozen young people and business professionals. The space, and several interviewers, was kindly provided by Mazars in central Manchester.

These intelligent young people are at risk of becoming so-called NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). With the help of LTSB, and working closely with local employers, they can find paid apprenticeships which are highly likely to result in full-time employment.

Although it was clear that the interviewees were nervous, the LTSB staff put them at ease and Steve did his part by sitting down with them prior to the session and giving them some friendly advice. He was very impressed with the professionalism and drive of these young people aspiring to greater things in their lives.

LTSB relies on growing relationships with local employers. Operating in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, the MCF grant of £5,000 will help them in their valuable work with disadvantaged young people in finding full-time employment through apprenticeships and professional development sessions.

There was a big surprise at the meeting of Wiclif Lodge in Leicestershire, as they joined forces with Edward Sherrier Lodge to make a joint donation of £10,000 to charity

At the meeting of Wiclif Lodge No. 3078 in Lutterworth on 13th March 2019, the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland David Hagger was in attendance to present a certificate in recognition of 50 years in Freemasonry to the Lodge Secretary, Malcolm Longley.

Yet, unbeknown to the Provincial Grand Master, the two lodges who meet in the market town of Lutterworth, Edward Sherrier Lodge No. 6757 and Wiclif Lodge, had arranged a surprise presentation of a cheque totaling £10,000 to the 2022 Festival Appeal, which is raising money for the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The cheque presentation was made by Clive Weston, who was representing Lutterworth Freemasons, which will go towards the target of raising £1.8 million by 2022. 

David Hagger said: ‘What a wonderful surprise to receive this most generous donation towards our appeal, a fantastic example of the generosity of our members.’

The money was raised by the members, friends, and families of Lutterworth Freemasons from events and fundraising activities on behalf of both lodges and the Sherricliff Fund.

UGLE's Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended a luncheon at the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lincolnshire and presided over a £100,000 donation to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)

The event took place in Spalding, where the Duke had a variety of other engagements during the day. It was hosted by Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler and had been arranged at the Masonic Hall at the request of the Lord Lieutenant of the county.

Also in attendance was the President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Richard Hone, who was pleased to accept the donation of £100,000 for the MCF, which marked the start of Lincolnshire’s 2025 Festival.

London Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have donated £5,000 to support East London-based charity, It’s Your Life, to improve life chances of children, young people and adults through three innovative and proven programmes delivered by inspirational mentors

One Programme, called the It's Your Community Project, engages with women from BAMER backgrounds who are taught to sew and practice their English skills, and to gain a certificate in citizenship and local democracy. One woman said that It's Your Life has 'helped show us how we can encourage our children to learn and to do something in the future – we want to show them they can learn anything'.

Another programme, It's Your Future, gives young people the social and emotional skills that promote engagement with learning, prevent exclusion and reverse poor attainment at school. One boy said 'It's Your Life has completely changed my confidence and I wish I could have stayed longer'.

Frankie Taylor from the charity said: 'We are really grateful for the support of London masons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is helping us to support some of the most marginalised and vulnerable families and young people.'

Tony Shields, Metropolitan Grand Lodge Charity Steward, commented: 'Our members are delighted to support this very worthwhile charity as it provides opportunities for those who are vulnerable and marginalised to gain the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage.

'This is another example of Freemasons supporting the London community.'

Quarterly Communication

13 March 2019 
A talk by RW Bro John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works

Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren

If you want to understand the responsibilities which you have as a Grand Lodge Officer you can do one of two things. Consult the Book of Constitutions, or speak to Graham Redman.

Rule 35 states – ‘The Grand Superintendent of Works shall advise the Board of General Purposes when required on any matter in connection with the building and the works. He shall furnish reports on the state of repair of the properties of the Grand Lodge when required’.

When I asked Graham if this meant that I simply had to submit periodic reports on necessary works we intended to carry out to keep this building in repair his reply was to the effect that ‘well - you may find that in practice it is rather more than that’

He was right.

I will start with Freemasons’ Hall.

You are surrounded in the Grand Temple by the centrepiece of one of this country’s foremost art deco buildings with a heritage value sustained by the fact that it remains today in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed and built. We are in the middle of a Conservation Area, and the building itself is Listed Grade 11*. What this means in practice is that anything which we do which affects the exterior of the building requires planning permission, and anything other than very minor like for like repairs to both the interior and the exterior must be notified to, and approved by, the Conservation Officer.

Planning Officers have to work within National Planning Policy Guidelines, and they are required to implement Local Plan Policies. Conservation Officers on the other hand have responsibility for protecting the heritage value of buildings of architectural and historic interest which, by their nature, are individual. They have wide ranging powers, which frequently involve subjective judgements which, even with professional advice, can be hard to predict.

Carrying out work to a listed building which requires, but does not have, Listed Building consent is a criminal offence. As I have no wish to return to address Grand Lodge on my experience as Grand Superintendent of Works after 12 months in Ford Prison I treat the need for works in this building to be approved by the Conservation Officer with the utmost care and respect.

Late and unexpected interventions by the Conservation Officer can be a very real problem, as we discovered when we renewed the West Door steps. To avoid this in the future we are at an early stage in negotiations with the Conservation Officer and Historic England for an HPA, a Heritage Partnership Agreement, which will give pre-approval in principle to specified works which we are likely to carry out, often repeatedly. Examples range from future phases of repairs to the building’s steel frame ( Regents Street Disease ), through work to repair and refurbish the many original toilets in the building ( not very glamorous, but nevertheless necessary ) down to the specification of the paint to be used when redecorating some of the more elaborately embellished Lodge Rooms.

HPAs are complex, time consuming, and costly, but the prize is securing for UGLE ownership and control of the timing and phasing of major works of repair which we need to carry out.

Keeping a building in repair can require reacting to the unexpected, but for the most part it can be anticipated through planned property maintenance. We are working to a ten-year time horizon in implementing recommended works within this building so that, for example, phased repairs to deal with RSD will include routine maintenance and general repairs within the same area. As far as possible once we have access to any hard to reach area within this building, or for that matter any area, our aim is to complete all necessary work properly and to a high standard so that an early return is not needed.

I have concentrated up to this point on repair, but the more interesting challenge is working to deliver changes to the way in which Freemasonry needs to use Freemasons’ Hall to support the vision of the Craft’s place in society today which the Grand Secretary outlined at the Quarterly Communication in December.

Freemasons’ Hall is and will remain a Masonic building, but our needs are changing. Many of you will know from personal experience that most of the Lodge Rooms here in Freemasons’ Hall, with the notable exception of Lodge Room No 10, were designed to accommodate meetings with an attendance of between 70 and 80. Today average attendance is in the mid 20s.

We cannot subdivide Lodge Rooms in response to this. Their scale and proportions were an important element within the original design of the building, and we know that any attempt to change this would meet with strong opposition from the Conservation Officer.

We can, however, adapt space to form smaller Lodge Rooms from accommodation in the building designed for other uses. Examples of where this has been achieved are the conversion of two committee rooms on the Sussex Corridor to provide two Chapter Rooms, and the three Lodge Rooms created on the third floor in what was originally two caretaker’s flats.  

While these changes take place we are also looking at how this building can play its part in encouraging a wider understanding of Freemasonry in society. This means improving public access, both generally and through supporting outside hire events. Both encourage improved awareness, while providing the opportunity for education through community engagement.

Improving public access, while at the same time meeting the continuing needs of UGLE as well as those of MetGL, the Library & Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is far from straightforward, and we always have to keep in mind that our ideas and ambitions may not always meet with approval from the Conservation Officer if work is involved requiring Listed Building Consent.

I don’t want to overstate the problem. There are projects which receive immediate support, at least in principle.

Freemasons’ Hall, like many public buildings, fails to provide enough female toilets. The building was designed to provide toilets for the convenience of members, and the paid employees of Grand Lodge were thought unlikely to include women. How the world has changed.

We have legal obligations to provide facilities for both men and women who work in the building, and if we are serious in wanting to host events such as Letters Live and London Fashion Week we must provide facilities which are as good, if not better, than competing venues. The unisex toilets off the vestibule and those on the floor below meet this need, and as we approach the refurbishment of the Gallery Suite to improve the facilities available for Masonic use and outside hire in what was Lodge Room 1 and its ante room, we will be restoring to their original use nearby toilets on the lower ground floor. These will, however, be designed with flexible male / female use use in mind.

As I and others on the Hall Committee oversee these projects I do so in the knowledge that my responsibilities as Grand Superintendent of Works do not end at the front door.

From the very early years of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge has owned a number of buildings in Great Queen Street. These include the Grand Connaught Rooms and the Sway nightclub, together with most of the buildings opposite on the north side of Great Queen Street. They are in the same Conservation Area as Freemasons’ Hall, and many of them are listed, including several which are Grade 11 *.

A diverse property portfolio such as this is by its nature management intensive, and just over 10 years ago the Board of General Purposes received a report from the then Grand Superintendent of Works John Edgcumbe drawing attention to the possibility of selling the properties to reinvest in a modern, well let commercial property which might provide better growth prospects without the need for continuous oversight, and periodic investment in refurbishment and repair.

Mindful of the importance which heritage has to Freemasonry, and the fact that ownership provides control over the setting of Freemasons’ Hall, the decision was taken by the Board that the buildings should be retained.

Maximising value by improving tenant mix, and income quality, while refurbishing and modernising the properties where necessary, became a long-term objective of the Property Investment Committee chaired by the Grand Treasurer, Quentin Humberstone. As well as being Grand Superintendent of Works I am a Chartered Surveyor with practical experience of property investment and asset management, and the valuation of commercial properties. With this background I should perhaps have expected that my work would extend beyond looking after Freemasons’ Hall to include contributing to the work of the Property Investment Committee.

Pausing at this point it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that the Property Investment Committee’s investment objectives have served Grand Lodge well.    

The accounts of Grand Lodge are not exactly bedtime reading, but in 2006 the north side of Great Queen Street had a book value in the region of £14.5m. By 2011 an external independent valuation confirmed that the value of the whole portfolio including the Grand Connaught Rooms, and with the benefit of investment in the refurbishment of several of the properties, had risen to £31.1m, and as at 31st December 2017 the figure in the UGLE accounts was just over £56.5m. You must wait for publication of the 2018 accounts for the corresponding value as at December last year, but I can reveal that a further increase in value will be reported.

Given the long-term commitment of Grand Lodge to holding this portfolio improvements in capital value, while reassuring, are perhaps less important than rental income. This is currently just over £2.5m pa. which contributes to the investment income which is available for Grand Lodge to maintain, repair and improve Freemasons’ Hall without making a call on individual members’ Grand Lodge dues.

Masonic ownership of land and building extends well beyond Great Queen Street to the many Masonic Halls and Centres throughout the country. These are the responsibility of their owners. Whilst Freemasonry is a Craft, running and managing Masonic Halls and Centres is a business. Over the years there have been many successes, but occasionally things have gone wrong, and the accompanying adverse publicity compromises years of hard work in promoting the reputation of Freemasonry for the better.

We have within our membership valuable knowledge and experience of how to manage a Masonic Hall and Centre in a way which is both sustainable, and financially viable. What we did not have until recently was a reference resource which brought together in one place experience and best practice. This gap was recognised by the Membership Focus Group in 2015 which set up a Masonic Halls Working Group tasked with creating a Guidance Manual to share knowledge of best practise.

Unlike the Book of Constitutions compliance with the Guidance Manual is not mandatory, although ignoring advice inevitably leaves room for criticism if things go wrong.

As Grand Superintendent of Works I am now responsible for issuing updates to the Masonic Halls Best Practise Guidance Manual. Working with a Steering Group we issue periodic updates – best practise is not static. It evolves in the light of new legislation, and widened experience. We hold annual seminars here at Freemasons’ Hall as a way of making sure that Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and those looking after Masonic Halls and Centres can contribute their knowledge and experience to the Guidance Manual and its advice.

As Grand Superintendent of Works here at Grand Lodge I am as much a user of the Guidance Manual as my counterparts in MetGL and across the Provinces.

As you can see Graham Redman was correct when he explained to me that I would be spending my time doing rather more than simply submiting periodic reports to the Board of General Purposes on the condition of this building. 

Published in Speeches
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